One of the most frustrating economic truths for innovators is the high cost of patenting the same invention over and over again in multiple countries. Even the Patent Cooperation
Treaty which allows for filing an prosecuting a single worldwide patent application ultimately requires that this application be nationalized for issuance in every country in which you want a patent. The same is true for the present European Patent Application, with respect to the various European countries.
Possibly by as early as 2014, this will no longer be true for Europe. After years of delay, the European Parliament has approved a “unitary patent” for Europe. One will file a European patent application as before, but instead of having to then separately issue the patent in each European country, only a single patent will issue covering all of Europe. The savings to the innovators is expected to be significant, not just at the time of patent issuance, but also every year when annual maintenance fees fall due. The European Patent Office is working out the details and will likely develop educational programs.